India will smell blood and look to exploit an England side under increasing pressure to get back to winning Test matches. (AFP Photo)
London: After being beaten by Sri Lanka in a Test series on home soil for the first time, England will look to recover their reputation with five matches against India. It's the first five-Test series in 55 years between the two countries. They will be played quickly, across 42 days, and will shape the futures of players on both sides.
Here are the five things to know going into the first Test match at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, starting Wednesday:
COOK UNDER PRESSURE: For England captain Alastair Cook, he simply must get a big score soon, preferably a century. He has gone 25 innings without reaching three figures and acknowledged after the defeat against Sri Lanka that not only his captaincy is in question, but his place in the team too. "No one has got a divine right to captain the side or play in the side if you're not performing," he said. "I am determined to turn this around."
Fellow batsman Joe Root, who made a double-century in the first test against Sri Lanka, believes England collectively must play better. "We've obviously got a point to prove," he said. "We're going to have to play some seriously good cricket but we are more than capable of doing that as a side."
INDIA SEEK REVENGE: Three years ago, the last time India travelled to England for a test series, they were thrashed 4-0 and in 2012, England won another four-match series 2-1 on Indian soil. Since then, a 5-0 Ashes defeat in Australia followed by the 1-0 series defeat to Sri Lanka mean England look anything but as imperious. India will smell blood and look to exploit their hosts' problems. In India's 18-man test squad, only three players have played Test match cricket in England - Gautam Gambhir, Ishant Sharma and captain MS Dhoni. However, Dhoni will be confident that batsmen such as Virat Kohli, an elegant shotmaker, and Ajinkya Rahane, who likes to play aggressively, will leave their mark on England.
"As far as our team is concerned, we have prepared really well," Kohli said. "We have some ideas in mind that we want to execute when we go onto the field."
NO REVIEW: India remains the only cricketing nation to refuse DRS, which means this test series will remove the safety net for umpires to improve the number of correct decisions. England would have won the first Test against Sri Lanka if Nuwan Pradeep had not been able to challenge the lbw dismissal awarded against him off the bowling of Stuart Broad, where replays showed he got a thick inside edge.
BEN STOKES BACK? The performance of Ben Stokes was one of the few positives England could take from their Ashes whitewash. He is an all-rounder, who made 120 in his second test appearance and, in a total of four matches for England, has 15 wickets with best figures of 6-99. The English media expect him to start on Wednesday, but who Stokes replaces is a cause for debate. Liam Plunkett's name has been mentioned but the fast bowler took nine wickets against Sri Lanka at Headingley. Chris Jordan could drop out but he has shown confidence with bat and ball. With a potential 25 days of cricket out of 42 coming up, both teams might be forced to rotate to avoid fatigue.
ALI AND ASHWIN: Moeen Ali is the closest England have to a spin bowler at the moment, but it seems that Cook needs to see more from him to be truly convinced. He relied almost incessantly on his four-pronged pace attack against Sri Lanka, and Ali would be forgiven for feeling he deserved to have the ball in his hand for more overs than he did. Granted, in both tests he averaged over 60, but he struck at crucial times removing key batsmen such as Kumar Sangakkara for his first test wicket.
For India, spinner Ravi Ashwin will be encouraged to see the torment that Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath put England's batsmen through. Ashwin averages around five wickets a Test, but 15 of his 19 appearances have been in India. The 27-year-old bowler now has an opportunity to remove any doubts about his ability to spin the ball outside of his home country against an England side under increasing pressure to get back to winning Test matches.